A Reminder: J.C. Romero Not As Bad As He Seems

Recently, I have seen a lot of negativity regarding left-hander J.C. Romero. It is somewhat justified as his 3.75 ERA does not speak to his performance. His BB/9 is currently higher than his K/9 (6.00 to 5.25) and he has had three appearances that qualify as “meltdowns“. From a fan perspective, he is not fun to watch because he is constantly making situations tougher than is necessary.

Last night’s game against the Reds was a great example. Romero came in to face the left-handed Joey Votto with one out and a runner on first base. He quickly fell behind 3-0 before issuing a five-pitch walk. The lead base runner, Brandon Phillips, was picked off as his attention drifted, lessening the blow of the free pass. Romero fell behind the right-handed Scott Rolen 3-0 and walked him on five pitches. Finally, Romero got ahead of the left-handed Jay Bruce 1-2, but walked him on six pitches. His final line? Three walks in one-third of an inning.

Romero has never had good control. His career average BB/9 is 5.2. That he has a 4.07 ERA and not a 6.07 ERA is a miracle. However, Romero’s wildness can be mitigated by utilizing him properly. I have mentioned many times before that Romero should be used strictly as a left-handed, one-out guy (LOOGY). Romero has a career 3.59 xFIP against lefties; against right-handers, his xFIP balloons to 5.38. Romero strikes out significantly more and walks significantly fewer lefties.

Charlie Manuel has not been putting Romero in the best situations, as he has had the platoon advantage in only 38 percent of his match-ups, down from 57 percent last year and 44 percent in 2008.

With Jose Contreras nearing his return, many are calling for the Phillies to cut ties with Romero. That is absolutely the incorrect move. Romero’s poor performance thus far can be blamed solely on Manuel’s usage. The Phillies front office knew going in what Romero’s strengths and weaknesses were; no one should be surprised when he fails after being put in statistically unfavorable positions.

Phillies Win A Statistically Improbable Game

As Jayson Stark will tell you, baseball is a great game because every day you have the chance to see something that has never happened before. Last night’s game against the Cincinnati Reds was as close to unique as we’ve seen in a long time.

19 innings. 26 position players and 15 pitchers used. 600 total pitches thrown. 155 total plate appearances. 73 pitches and five shut-out innings of relief from Danys Baez. Wilson Valdez, a position player, retiring the toughest part of the Reds’ lineup, including reigning NL MVP Joey Votto, and earning the victory when the Phillies won it in the bottom half of the 19th inning. One tenth-inning home run to break the tie, and another one in the bottom half to re-tie.

There was so much improbability involved in the game that I can only assume that Stark’s head exploded.

Recaps are boring so I’m just going to throw some trivia and stat nuggets at the wall.

  • The last time the Phillies played a game that went 19 innings or longer was July 7, 1993 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
  • The last time a Phillies position player pitched was May 13, 2002 when Tomas Perez pitched a third of an inning in a 17-3 blowout loss to the Houston Astros.
  • The last time a position player earned a victory was August 22, 2000 when catcher Brent Mayne pitched a scoreless inning.

11 plays had a leverage index of 4.00 or above (meaning it was a really important play); only one of them involved a hit.

Pitcher Hitter Inn. Outs Base Score Play LI
Herndon Hernandez 11 2 123 4-4 Ramon Hernandez grounded out to pitcher (Grounder). 6.86
Masset Polanco 9 2 123 3-3 Placido Polanco reached on fielder’s choice to shortstop (Grounder). Jimmy Rollins out at second. 6.38
Masset Brown 9 1 123 3-3 Domonic Brown fouled out to catcher (Fly). 5.71
Fisher Ibanez 19 1 123 5-4 Raul Ibanez hit a sacrifice fly to center (Fly). Jimmy Rollins scored. 5.71
Halladay Bruce 7 2 123 3-3 Jay Bruce singled to right (Grounder). Miguel Cairo scored. Drew Stubbs scored. Joey Votto advanced to 2B. 4.66
Halladay Rolen 7 1 123 3-1 Scott Rolen struck out swinging. 4.66
Romero Phillips 11 1 12_ 4-4 Brandon Phillips picked off. 4.62
Romero Bruce 11 2 12_ 4-4 Jay Bruce walked. Joey Votto advanced to 3B. Scott Rolen advanced to 2B. 4.43
Masset Mayberry 9 1 12_ 3-3 Chase Utley advanced on a wild pitch to 2B. 4.31
Masset Rollins 9 1 _23 3-3 Jimmy Rollins was intentionally walked. 4.15
Fisher Howard 19 1 _23 4-4 Ryan Howard was intentionally walked. 4.15

Note that Jay Bruce’s solo home run in the tenth earned just a 2.30 LI and Ryan Howard’s solo home run to tie the game back up in the bottom half earned a 3.42 LI.

EDIT: Tango offers clarification with my above comment:

Note that the LI is assigned PRIOR to the event occurring.  It is a description of the state that the batter and pitcher find themselves.  So, Jay Bruce found himself in a state where the LI was 2.30.  What you “earn” are wins (not LI), meaning that in this situation, rather than a HR being worth around +.14 wins, they were paying off at about 2.3 times that.  (He earned +.342 wins.) The change in win expectancy is how much more relief the Reds fans got (and the level of despondency that Phillies fans experienced).  Ryan Howard’s HR spun things around the other way.

Prior to the walk-off sacrifice fly by Raul Ibanez, the Phillies’ highest win expectancy came in the sixth inning when Ibanez tripled off of starter Travis Wood. The Phillies’ lowest win expectancy was after Bruce’s solo homer.

The following chart plots each player’s leverage index (pLI) for the game along with their win percent added (WPA).

As you can see, there weren’t too many players that landed in the upper-right quadrant.

The Phillies were 1-for-13 (.077) with runners in scoring position. The Reds weren’t much better, at 3-for-15 (.200). The two teams combined to go 4-for-28 (.143). The Phillies left 16 runners on base; the Reds 17.

Finally, how about this whopper from ESPN’s Steve Berthiaume on Twitter:

Links to video clips from MLB.com:

  • Stutes strikes out the side in the 8th [Link]
  • Howard ties the game in the 10th [Link]
  • Romero picks off Phillips [Link]
  • Herndon escapes an 11th-inning jam [Link]
  • Baez’s five scoreless innings of relief [Link]
  • Valdez’s scoreless inning of relief in the 19th [Link]
  • Ibanez’s walk-off sacrifice fly [Link]
  • Valdez post-game interview with Sarge, gets pied by teammates [Link]
  • Charlie Manuel’s post-game press conference [Link]

Did you stay up for the entire game? Feel free to post your thoughts and any interesting statistical factoids in the comments.

Game graph courtesy FanGraphs.